Mark Brush

Reporter/Producer

Mark is a senior reporter/producer at Michigan Radio where he's been working to develop the station's online news content since 2010.

From 2000 to 2006, he worked as the technical director and senior producer for Michigan Radio's regional environmental news service known as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

From 2006 to 2010, as the unit's co-manager and senior producer, Mark helped transition the GLRC into an award-winning national news service known as The Environment Report. The service was heard on more that 130 stations around the country including WBEZ in Chicago, WAMU in Washington D.C., KUOW in Seattle, and KWMU in St. Louis.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Michigan ('00 MS in Environmental Policy and Planning & '91 BA in Political Science) and has been "a board certified public radio junkie" since 1992. He discovered public radio on his commutes to work in his trusty 1984 VW Rabbit. Much of Mark's storytelling philosophy was influenced through his close work with veteran CBC "réalisateur" David Candow.

Pages

Culture
4:36 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Census releases numbers on the black population in the U.S.

The black or African American population as a percent of a county's population in 2010.
U.S. Census Bureau

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report "The Black Population: 2010."

The 2010 Census found that 14 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as black, "either alone or in combination with one or more other races."

From a U.S. Census Bureau press release:

Of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million on April 1, 2010, 38.9 million people, or 13 percent, identified as black alone. In addition, 3.1 million people, or 1 percent, reported as black in combination with one or more other races. Together, these two groups comprise the black alone-or-in-combination population and totaled 42.0 million.

Detroit has highest concentration of blacks living in an urban area

Census officials report that of the major cities in the U.S. (cities with 100,000 people in them or more), Detroit had the highest percentage of people identifying as black, or black in combination with other races, at 84 percent.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Detroit, Michigan (84.3 percent)
  2. Jackson, Mississippi (80.1 percent)
  3. Miami Gardens, Florida (77.9 percent)
  4. Birmingham, Alabama (74.0 percent)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (65.1 percent)
  6. Memphis, Tennessee (64.1 percent)
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana (61.2 percent)
  8. Flint, Michigan (59.5 percent)
  9. Montgomery, Alabama (57.4 percent)
  10. Savannah, Georgia (56.7 percent)
Read more
Politics
9:20 am
Thu September 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Bid to recall Governor Snyder ends

The organization behind recalling Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says its effort has fallen short of collecting the more than 807,000 valid signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. From the Detroit Free Press:

The campaign to recall Gov. Rick Snyder is calling it quits after falling short of collecting the number of petition signatures needed to put the issue before voters, campaign spokesman Tom Bryant said in an e-mail to the Free Press. Bryant did not specify how many signatures had been collected, and could not be reached for further comment today.

Detroit moves forward with targeted effort to support "healthier" neighborhoods

The city of Detroit is tight on resources, so providing services to all the neighborhoods in the city's footprint is a challenge. Mayor Bing's "Detroit Works Project" is aimed at providing more services to neighborhoods considered healthy, and cutting back on other neighborhoods. The Detroit News reports the targeted effort is beginning:

The strategy is the first phase of a larger Detroit Works Project that eventually could encourage residents to leave some neighborhoods. That plan is still being formed, and Bing announced the service changes in July that will be rolled out in the next several months.

Under the plan, neighborhoods identified by City Hall as healthy, such as East English Village and Palmer Park, would get more code enforcement, commercial code improvements, home rehabs, streetlight fixes, tree trimming and dump cleanups, but fewer housing demolitions.

That would be reversed for those deemed distressed, such as Brightmoor and the east side surrounding Coleman A. Young International Airport, where demolitions would be focused and some services reduced.

Grant means 35 police officers in Michigan can be retained or hired

An $8.18 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will cover full salaries and benefits for 35 police officers for three years. The Associated Press reports that U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say the Department of Justice is giving the grant to four Michigan police agencies in Michigan. The grant comes form the Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS):

They say Detroit is getting $5.69 million for 25 officers, Flint is getting $1.23 million for six officers, Wayne County's Redford Township is getting $936,000 for three officers, and Roseville is getting $320,000 for one officer.

Food
4:10 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Ground beef recalled, Kroger stores in Michigan not affected

Officials say, based on the latest information, the ground beef recall does not affect Michigan Kroger stores.
Daniel Jordahl Flickr

First, a deadly listeria outbreak on Colorado cantaloupes, now a ground beef E. coli scare affecting some Kroger generic brands.

In a recall release, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service says 131,300 pounds of ground beef products from Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. are being recalled because of possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

E. coli O157:H7 can make a dangerous Shiga toxin. CDC officials say the toxin "can attack the body in several areas: the gut (causing bloody diarrhea), the kidneys (causing kidney failure), and sometimes the nervous system."

The Associated Press reports the recall occurred when an Ohio family fell ill after eating the meat contaminated with E. coli:

The recall involves beef sold as Kroger and generic brands at Kroger supermarkets; Butcher's Beef at Food Lion supermarkets; and generic beef sold to SAV-A-LOT, Spectrum Foods, Supervalu and the Defense Commissary Agency...

According to Michigan Kroger officials, the meat recall does not affect its stores:

At this time, Michigan Kroger stores are not affected by this recall.

“The Kroger ground beef products sold in our stores in Michigan are not included in this recall,” said Dale Hollandsworth, Customer Communications Manager, The Kroger Co. of Michigan. “If a recall were to occur in Michigan, Kroger would initiate our customer recall notification system to alert all customers who may have purchased recalled product.”

USDA officials say "the products subject to recall have a "BEST BEFORE OR FREEZE BY" date of "SEP 12 2011" and the establishment number "245D" ink jetted along the package seam."

Here are the latest details from the USDA on the specific types of ground beef being recalled:

  • 5-pound chubs of Kroger-brand "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 40-pound cases containing eight chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 QW." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Ind. and Tenn. for retail sale.
     
  • 3-pound chubs of Butcher’s Brand "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWIF." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in N.C. and S.C. for retail sale.
     
  • 3-pound chubs of a generic label "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWI." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Del., Fla., Ga., Md., Ill., Ind., Mo., N.Y., Ohio, Tenn., Texas and Wis. for retail sale.

Auto/Economy
3:07 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

UAW membership approves 4-year deal with GM

A view from GM's Headquarters. The UAW membership and GM have agreed to a four-year contract. The team from Changing Gears share their analysis.
user santoshkrishnan Flickr

Update - 3:07 p.m.

More thoughts on the newly ratified UAW-GM contract from Micky Maynard with Changing Gears:

General Motors gave some new details today on its just-ratified agreement with the United Auto Workers union. Among them: up to 25 percent of its workforce could be “two-tiers” — new hires at lower rates than veteran workers.

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson profiled two-tier workers last year. Right now, they’re only 4 percent of GM’s workforce, but the auto company clearly has plans for more of them.

There’s a caveat, though. In order for GM to hire more workers, auto sales have to pick up, company executives said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. And it isn’t promising to hire the same number of workers as it sees sales go up: it will study its staffing needs and hire accordingly. 

The new contract runs through 2015 and caps the number of “two-tiers” at 25 percent at the end of the contract. It calls for the new hires to get a raise to nearly $20 an hour by 2015 (veteran workers are paid about $28 an hour now).

Other GM highlights:

  • The number of people working in its U.S. factories has dropped sharply. GM had 110,000 hourly production workers in 2005, according to its presentation. In 2008, the year before it filed for bankruptcy production, GM had 78,000 U.S. workers. Now, GM has just 49,000 hourly workers, or less than half what it had six years ago.
  • For the first time in 58 years, GM does not expect its pension expense to rise under the new contract. One reason is that newly hired workers will not be covered by GM’s traditional pension plan; they will receive a 401(k) retirement program instead.
  • GM says it still has 700 workers laid off from their jobs. They have first dibs on jobs at GM plants, including the workers it plans to hire when it reopens its factory in Spring Hill, Tenn. Once those workers have been offered the chance to come back, then GM will hire new workers, including temporaries.

Read more about the GM contract in The New York Times.

1:05 p.m.

More from Pete Bigelow of Changing Gears:

General Motors became the first domestic automaker to reach an official agreement on a new contract with members of the United Auto Workers union Wednesday afternoon.

The UAW said in a written release that 65 percent of production workers and 63 percent of skilled trade workers voted in favor of the agreement, which had been tentatively agreed upon Sept 16. A four-year contract provides a wage increase for entry-level workers, and goes into effect immediately.

The agreement would create 6,400 jobs in the United States, the release said.

“When it seems like everyone in America is getting cuts in benefits and paying higher co-pays and deductibles, we were able to maintain and improve on our current benefits,” said UAW vice president Joe Ashton.

GM CEO Dan Akerson is expected to hold a conference call with Wall Street analysts at 2 p.m.

12:37 p.m.

The deal is complete. UAW members officially ratified their contract with General Motors.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The UAW said today that its members have ratified a new four-year labor agreement with GM that gives workers a $5,000 signing bonus and is expected to preserve or add 6,400 U.S. jobs.

It is the first contract for 48,500 GM hourly workers since the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring.

The union said the vote was 65% in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63% in favor among skilled-trades workers.

Indictment
1:56 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Three corporate executives indicted in compressor price-fixing case

A refrigerator compressor. The thing that makes your refrigerator cold. Three executives have been indicted by a Detroit federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to fix the price of compressors.
Dave Matos Flickr

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former executives from a Whirlpool Corporation subsidiary, a Panasonic Corporation, and a Tecumseh Products Company subsidiary for conspiring to fix prices on refrigerant compressors.

The compressors are used in refrigerators and freezers.

From the DOJ's press release:

The indictment, returned today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, charges Ernesto Heinzelmann, former president and chief executive officer of Empresa Brasileira de Compressores S.A. (Embraco), a division of Whirlpool S.A.; Gerson Veríssimo, former president of Tecumseh do Brasil Ltda., a subsidiary of Tecumseh Products Company; and Naoki Adachi, general manager of global sales & SE group, refrigeration devices division at Panasonic Corporation, with conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition by coordinating price increases for refrigerant compressors to customers in the United States and elsewhere.

Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General from the DOJ's Antitrust Division said:

“Cracking down on international price fixing cartels has been and will continue to be among the most significant priorities for the Antitrust Division. Our investigation into the refrigerant compressors industry has already resulted in two companies – Panasonic and Embraco North America – pleading guilty and paying a total of $140.9 million in criminal fines. Our investigation is continuing.”

The three are being charged for price fixing under the Sherman Act. The maximum penalty they each face is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The DOJ reports that their investigation led to guilty pleas in 2010 from Panasonic and Embraco North America Inc:

On Nov. 15, 2010, Panasonic Corporation pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $49.1 million criminal fine, and on Dec.16, 2010, Embraco North America Inc. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $91.8 million criminal fine.

News Roundup
9:16 am
Wed September 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Palisades nuclear power plant remains shut down

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant 55 southwest of Grand Rapids is still shut down.

From the Associated Press:

Operators of the plant said in a statement Wednesday that the plant remains out of service after an electrical breaker fault automatically prompted the shutdown Sunday.

Repairs were being made this week. New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. owns Palisades and says no one was hurt in the shutdown...

It was shut down Sept. 16 because of a loss of water in a cooling system, then brought back on the grid last week.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspected the plant in August after a water pump component failed.

Michigan Republicans continue education policy debate

The Associated Press reports that Governor Rick Snyder's administration and Republicans in the legislature will continue to push their education overhaul proposals this week. From the AP:

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to discuss the administration's education proposals Wednesday at a Lansing conference hosted by The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

The Republican leaders of committees dealing with education policy also are scheduled to attend.

The conference comes as lawmakers are debating multiple bills related to education policy in the state Legislature. A package of bills in a Senate committee would let students transfer to other schools more easily and have a broader choice of charter schools and online learning options.

Michigan State University to test "Head Start on Science" for preschoolers

MSU will test a new program aimed at teaching preschoolers science. The effort is funded by the National Science Foundation. From an MSU news release:

The five-year effort, called Head Start on Science, is funded by a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It’s designed to get educators more comfortable teaching science to 3- to 5-year-olds – a task that’s especially important for low-income and minority children who often start school with less preparation for science learning than affluent students, said lead researcher Laurie Van Egeren.

Politics
5:33 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

UM nurses to voice concerns at "State of the Health System" address

user meddygarnet Flickr

Nurses at the University of Michigan Health System have been working without a contract since July 1.

Officials at the University of Michigan Health System and the 4,000 registered nurses who work there have been unable to reach an agreement on issues such as pay, health insurance, and benefits.

The nurses marched to a University of Michigan Board of Regents on September 15 with their demands.

Now, the nurses say they will voice their concerns at tonight's "State of the Health System" address.

From a Michigan Nurses Association press release:

Nurses will attend the annual University of Michigan Health System “State of the Health System” address on Tuesday, September 27 at 5:15 pm in the Ford Auditorium in University Hospital.

The nurses will be representing the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) in a visible show of solidarity for safe patient care at UMHS. Approximately 4,000 nurses are currently working without a contract rather than settle for an agreement that will diminish benefits and increase costs, leading to substantial nurse to patient staffing issues.

Trade Mission
3:09 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

New Michigan-Japanese partnership to add jobs in Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

On his trade mission to Asia, Governor Snyder praised a business partnership between a Japanese company and the Michigan Molecular Institute (MMI).

The partnership between Japan's ECO Research Institute (ERI) and MMI is expected to bring around 30 new jobs to Midland.

Snyder made his comments at the Japan Midwest U.S. Annual Conference today praising the partnership "as an example of the economic and technological benefits that Michigan and Japan stand to gain through greater cooperation."

The two companies will form a new company called ECO Bio Plastics Midland Inc. The new company will produce bio-plastic pellets made of compound  mixes of plastics and micron-sized dry powder made from shredded paper.

These pellets will be used as packaging materials, food service products, heat insulation applications, and toys.

The Midland Daily News quoted James Plonka, president and CEO of Michigan Molecular Institute:

Plonka noted EBP has chosen a site for the new Midland facility, with the expectation to break ground before November and to begin production next summer.

“Midland is a good location for the demonstration facility for a couple reasons,” Plonka said. “First, because of the paper shredding services provided by the Arnold Center, Midland, is an excellent source of paper feedstock. And secondly, some of the most innovative plastics research in the world occurs in Midland. It’s a natural fit.

The plan calls for the initial paper-plastic composite production facility to produce 10 million pounds per year, with the ability to grow to 100 million pounds per year, Plonka said.

Station News
1:38 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Maintenance work on WUOM signal tonight

WUOM 91.7 will be going off the air at midnight in order to allow our engineers to safely perform some maintenance work. The work should take about two hours. This overnight repair work will only effect our 91.7 signal in southeast Michigan.

Environment
12:21 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

University of Michigan commits $14 million to environmental improvements

University of Michigan officials say they will purchase seven new hybrid buses as part of their $14 million push to improve the University's environmental footprint.
Corey Seeman Flickr

University of Michigan officials say they are committing $14 million to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce solid waste sent to landfills, protect local water supplies, and support local food supplies.

In a speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said the changes are a new chapter for the university, "one that will alter the face of our campus and, more important, the character of our teaching, research and impact as a global leader."

Officials listed goals they hope to meet by 2025 in a press release:

  • Cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, the equivalent of removing nearly 42,000 cars from the road.
  • Make the university transportation system more efficient – decreasing vehicle carbon output by 30 percent for every person in the car, truck or bus.
  • Shrink the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent.
  • Protect the Huron River through best-in-class storm water control strategies and by applying 40 percent fewer chemicals to campus landscapes, and ensure that at least 30 percent of stormwater runoff does not flow into the Huron River.
  • Promote sustainable foods while supporting more Michigan farmers and producers. From the residence halls to the unions and hospitals, the university is introducing new purchasing guidelines and making a commitment that at least 20 percent of U-M food comes from local and sustainable sources.

Officials say some of changes on campus will be noticed "almost immediately": the purchase of 37 hybrid vehicles (including buses), a solar panel installation on North Campus, a geothermal system for the Weisfeld Family Golf Center, and newly renovated or constructed dining halls will go "trayless" (so students don't pile on food they end up tossing in the garbage).

The Associated Press reports the $14 million the University is committing to sustainability augments other sustainability spending by the University:

That's in addition to $64 million in energy-efficient construction activity and $20 million supporting on-campus sustainability efforts.

The university says its plan is among the broadest of its kind, though efforts are under way at many campuses, including Michigan State University, Miami University in Ohio, University of Oregon
and University of Utah.

Donald Scavia, the director of UM's  Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and an advisor to President Coleman on sustainability,  says the commitments and goals are important, "but more impressive to me is the emerging culture shift on campus. I believe the high levels of focus, energy, and collaboration now in place throughout the university are the most significant steps in driving progress toward all of our sustainability goals -- in education, research, and operations."

News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue September 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

UAW talks with Ford heat up

Officials from the United Auto Workers are pushing for more from Ford Motor Company. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the union leaders "expect to get better terms" from Ford, since the company is in a better position compared to GM and Chrysler. From Cwiek's report:

If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, there is the possibility of a strike. Since Ford didn’t go through bankruptcy, it doesn’t have the no-strike clause in its current contract that the other companies enjoy.

Like its fellow U.S. automakers, Ford is reluctant to increase its fixed costs by raising wages. But the union is expected to make a major push for bonuses, more generous profit-sharing formulas and retaining jobs in the U.S.

Costs of Enbridge oil spill going up

Officials from Enbridge Energy have revised their estimates for cleaning up the oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. It's original cost was $585 million. Now, they say it will cost $700 million. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports the new estimate was part of paperwork Enbridge Energy filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. An Enbridge spokesman says the increase is due to "additional work around submerged oil and just some more active remediation of the impacted environment."

New state policy: ties for guys

In contrast to their chief executive's style, officials from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs have issued a dress code for men that calls for ties. Governor Rick Snyder prefers a sport coat and dress shirt with no tie. The Lansing State Journal reports the new policy is aimed at thousands of state employees:

The new policy went into effect Sept. 12 for about 3,700 employees at the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. It's part of a move to implement a consistent dress code among the several state bureaus and offices that merged this year to create the agency.

"Some of the old bureaus had dress codes, others didn't," said Mike Zimmer, the agency's chief deputy director. "We thought it should be consistent throughout the department."

News Roundup
10:47 am
Mon September 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Governor Snyder on trade mission in Asia

Governor Rick Snyder and a delegation of business and government officials left for Asia over the weekend. On Sunday, the governor and the delegation met with Japanese officials in Tokyo. From Governor Snyder's press release:

Governor Rick Snyder today met with Governor Yukiko Kada of Shiga Prefecture, Japan, to discuss mutual interests in promotion of business investment, tourism and job creation in Michigan and Shiga and protection and preservation of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan and the Great Lakes, the world’s largest group of freshwater lakes.

The Governor's office say the Michigan-Shiga partnership "is one of the oldest sister state relationships between the United States and Japan."

Snyder will head to Beijing, China on Tuesday and to Shanghai on Thursday. While there, the governor's office says Snyder and the Michigan delegation will "meet with senior government officials, executives of some of China's largest companies and a number of Michigan companies that operate there."

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is in China covering the trip. You can read about her trip by following her travelogue.

New state aid formula for Michigan schools

Changes in how state education officials calculate per-pupil aid to public schools could mean an overall decline in state school aid. The Detroit News reports officials have changed how they count attendance numbers:

The number of students counted in classrooms during the fall Count Day next week will be worth 90 percent of state aid, rather than 75 percent as in past years. A winter count in February will be worth 10 percent instead of 25 percent.

The change in the state formula was prompted by research that showed as student enrollment continued to decline statewide, the state was paying for students counted in the spring who were no longer there in the fall.

Under the new formula, districts with falling enrollment stand to lose money, while those adding students each school year will get more cash from the state.

Overall, the state's public schools could receive $12.6 million less in school aid this year because of the change.

Michigan National Guardsmen head for Afghanistan

1,200 members of the Michigan National Guard leave home today to make their way to Afghanistan's Konduz Province, reports the Detroit Free Press:

Family and friends are saying farewell this evening to members of units of the 125th Infantry.

The Headquarters Company gets a send-off at Grand Blanc High School. Wyoming-based Company C gets a send-off at Grand Valley Armory, Bay City-based Company F gets a send-off at Dow Diamond in Midland and Big Rapids-based Company D gets a send-off at the Big Rapids Armory.

Detroit-based Company A gets a send-off at the Detroit Light Guard Armory.

Read more
Military
2:42 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

More time home for Army units after a deployment

A National Guard soldier returns home in Wisconsin. Army officials have announced they plan to increase dwell times.
photo by Spc. Alyson Berzinski 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

After soldiers in the Army return home, they're given time to recuperate  before being asked to deploy again.

It's called "dwell time."

Earlier this month, the Army announced they'll extend the dwell time for units that deploy starting in October.

It's welcome news for military families who saw loved ones return to service after a year home, or less.

From the Military Times:

Army units that deploy starting next month should enjoy two years of dwell time when they come home. That’s the Army’s plan for its war-weary troops even as it transitions from 12-month deployments to nine-month tours, a senior Army planner said.

“If you’re a deploying unit for this coming quarter, when you return, can we tell you you’re on a two-year dwell cycle? The answer is yes for most Army units,” said Col. John Hort, a senior planner at Forces Command. “Our goal is to be able to provide a unit two years of dwell minimum when they return.

In addition to longer dwell times, Army officials say they're also transitioning away from 12-month deployments to nine-month deployments in fiscal 2012. Also welcome news to those who once experienced 15-month tours.

The changes are dependent on continued troop draw downs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an editorial, the Army Times said the changes are "long overdue":

It’s been a long time coming. The deployment rotations took a heavy toll on the morale of the troops and family members who made great personal, financial and emotional sacrifices to support their loved ones and the mission. The long separations often hurt marriages and caused great pain for deployed parents who missed birthdays and ballgames, graduations and anniversaries, and all those moments when it means so much to just be there.

Back home, the deployments in many cases contributed to an epidemic suicide rate among soldiers. Moreover, a Military Times investigation reveals, the number of military children killed through abuse and neglect doubled from 2003 to 2008, an increase “very clearly tied to specific events of the large-scale deployments,” said researcher Deborah Gibbs, who has studied child abuse under a Defense Department contract.

Trade Mission
1:01 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

How much will Governor Snyder's trip to Asia cost? TBD

Shanghai, China is one of the stops on Governor Rick Snyder's trade mission to Asia.
Trey Ratcliff Flickr

Tomorrow, Governor Rick Snyder heads off to Asia with a delegation of Michigan political leaders and business officials on a trade mission.

He'll spend a week traveling to Japan, China, and South Korea.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will travel with the Governor and report on the stops in Shanghai and and Beijing.

Samilton reported on Governor Snyder's goals for the trip:

The ultimate goal is creating more jobs in the state.  But the Governor has been careful to downplay expectations of new jobs right away. 

 "In terms of specific deals to be announced," Snyder says, "I don’t have high expectations there.  This is more about starting the relationships and then looking six months, a year out, after subsequent meetings and followup and discussions, will there be actual investment or will there be more exports.

So, how much?

We asked our Facebook fans what they wanted to know about Snyder's trade mission.

Many were curious to know how much is being spent on the trip. 

Samilton put this question to Michael Shore at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Here's his response:

  • The trade mission costs will come either from contributions to the Michigan Economic Development foundation, a non-profit that supports economic development in Michigan through corporate contributions, or from MEDC corporate revenues, which derive from sources other than the state general fund. No taxpayer dollars are being spent for those traveling on behalf of the State of Michigan.

MEDC officials followed up that e-mail with this:

  • Local officials and other non-state of Michigan people going on the trip are responsible for paying their own way. The cost of the trip will be disclosed after the trade mission.

So the cost is to be determined, but they wanted to make clear that "no taxpayer dollars [will be] used to fund the State of Michigan official delegation, which includes the Governor."

Other trade trips by Michigan Governors

The last Michigan Governor to visit China was former-Governor John Engler.

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm never made a trip to the country, though she did take many trade trips, according to Crain's Detroit Business:

...Jennifer Granholm was active in going abroad and led 13 overseas trade missions to 10 countries, including Japan and South Korea.

Read more
Offbeat
11:30 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Phew! Space junk threat decreasing for United States

Space junk from a Delta 2 third stage, known as a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module-Delta), reentered the atmosphere over the Middle East and landed in Saudi Arabia, according to Space.com. The titanium motor casing weighed about 154 lbs.
NASA

You've probably caught wind of the space junk hurtling toward the earth's atmosphere.

If not, you can catch up on the story here: Your Friday Forecast: Sunny, with a 1-in-21-Trillion Chance of Getting Hit by Orbital Debris.

The latest projections from NASA: debris from the six-ton "Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite" (UARS) that survives re-entry is less likely to land in the U.S.

From NASA:

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 23, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 100 miles by 105 miles (160 km by 170 km). Re-entry is expected late Friday, Sept. 23, or early Saturday, Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time. Solar activity is no longer the major factor in the satellite’s rate of descent. The satellite’s orientation or configuration apparently has changed, and that is now slowing its descent. There is a low probability any debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States, but the possibility cannot be discounted because of this changing rate of descent. It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 12 to 18 hours.

If you're one of the lucky ones that stumbles upon newly fallen space junk, NASA wants to make sure you don't touch it... you might cut yourself.

@NASA just tweeted - "Nothing radioactive on . Main reason NOT to touch anything that you think could be debris: sharp metal cuts."

Read more
Allegan County
10:43 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Small plane clips a FedEx truck, crashes and kills pilot

The plane crash occurred near the Plainwell Municipal Airport about 16 miles north of Kalamazoo.
Google Maps

A small plane crashed in Allegan County this morning.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that construction workers working on a bridge over U.S. 131 saw the plane approaching the Plainwell Municipal Airport and noticed that it was too low.

The plane clipped the back of a FedEx semi traveling on U.S. 131 before crashing. Chuck Wiersma was one of the construction crew members:

"We said, 'He's not going to make it," Wiersma said. "And he didn't make it."

The plane clipped the truck's trailer and crashed. Paul Brindley, who runs the airport, said the pilot was killed. Police said the truck driver was not hurt.

After the plane crashed, Wiersma said he drove onto northbound U.S. 131 and attempted to stop traffic. He also went to the crash site to see if he could help.

Asked what he saw, Wiersma said, "It was a mess."

At around 9 a.m. this morning, WZZM reported that a stretch of U.S. 131 was closed:

Allegan County Sheriff's Deputies have closed the northbound side of the highway, from M-89 to M-222. It is unclear how long U.S. 131 will remain closed. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

Economy
9:40 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Wayne County and U of M Health System agree to share forensic services

Pathologists at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office have been working to keep up with a case load that is one of the largest in the country - around 2,500 autopsies each year. They've been doing this at a time when the office's budget has been cut by 20 percent over the last 4 years.

Now, the University of Michigan Health System and Wayne County officials have announced they'll share resources to save money and improve educational opportunities.

From the Associated Press:

The University of Michigan Health System and Wayne County have agreed to partner for forensic services at the county medical examiner's office.

Officials said Thursday that the 3-year deal will save county taxpayers $1.5 million and provide the University of Michigan's Pathology Department with additional training.

The combined staff will help move along the high-volume of autopsies in Wayne County.

County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt and other Board of Pathology-certified pathologists would become employees of the school. The medical examiner's office would remain under county governance.

Schmidt said his office is one of the busiest in the country with about 2,500 autopsies each year. He said funding has dropped from $8.1 million in 2007 to $6.2 million to $5.7 million for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The partnership is expected to start on October 1.

It won't prevent layoffs at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office. From a University of Michigan Health System press release:

The agreement would require five of the 31 employees at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office to be laid off. However, three of the five employees will continue employment with Wayne County government and one will retire.

Election 2012
4:05 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter drops his bid for president

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend.
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

U.S. Reprsentative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) has dropped his bid for the Republican presidential nominiation.

From the Detroit News:

Livonia Rep. Thaddeus McCotter told The Detroit News this afternoon that he is leaving the race for the Republican presidential nomination after he failed to win access to the Republican presidential debates.

"If they keep you out of the debates, you are out of the conversation and you can't run," McCotter said. "It was sort of death by media."

McCotter says he will give his support to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Michigan native, and will likely run again for the 11th District congressional seat he's held since 2003.

Politics
3:03 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Tax evasion charges filed against former Kilpatrick fund-raiser

A fund-raiser for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been charged with income tax evasion.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Another person with close ties to ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is facing federal criminal charges.

Emma Bell, Kilpatrick’s longtime fund-raiser, was charged today in federal court with two counts of income tax evasion for allegedly failing to report more than half a million dollars she received from Kilpatrick’s inaugural and mayoral campaign committees, and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

Bell is expected to plead guilty and is cooperating. A plea date has not yet been set.

The Detroit Free Press reports that it is unknown whether Bell will testify against Kilpatrick in the federal corruption case against the former Detroit Mayor.

Earlier this month, Derrick Miller, a former aide to Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is expected to testify against his former boss.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Derrick Miller were indicted on corruption charges last December along with three other people:

  • Bernard Kilpatrick (the former Mayor's father),
  • Bobby Ferguson (city contractor and friend),
  • and Victor Mercado (former head of the Detroit Water and Sewarage Department).
Culture
11:07 am
Thu September 22, 2011

The Story: Kalamazoo street rivals make changes and settle differences

Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris.
The Story

"I'm not going to stop until Michael is dead."

In the streets of Kalamazoo, Michigan, people were looking for revenge against Michael Wilder for the violence he committed against others.

Michael says his violence was born out of violence against him.

So goes the cycle of hatred and rage that is repeated by people throughout the world.

The public radio program The Story recounted the tale of Michael "Too Short" Wilder and Yafinceio "Big B" Harris: two enemies from the streets of Kalamazoo who make changes and later meet at a community college:

From The Story:

Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris were long time rivals.  Several times they came close to an armed confrontation. Five years ago, one almost killed the other in a Kalamazoo street war.

But something always seemed to intervene. Imagine the surprise for both of them when they met, earlier this year, in a community college classroom.

Wilder said their teacher at the community college recognized their incredible story and asked if he could share it with the producers at The Story.

Wilder said he and Harris were excited to share their story:

"We're living proof that [violence] is not always the answer," said Wilder.

"You know what Yafinceio told me one day shortly after we met in school?

It almost made me cry.

He said, 'man, I realized that if I had killed you, I would have killed a good dude.' He told me that!

Can you imagine having a killer, that was going to kill you, turn around and get to know you and tell you something like that?!"

They call the trust they built between one another "Real recognized real."

Listen to Wilder and Harris recount their incredible story of how they broke the cycle of violence between them:

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